Not having the history of rivalry games like the Iron Bowl or Florida-Florida State, the proximity of both schools being separated by 96 miles has forged a natural awareness of another opponent in one’s own backyard and a natural disdain for said opponent as years pass. Both fan bases have taken to social media this week with the hashtags #UCFHateWeek/#USFHateWeek to display school pride while taking sometimes lever, oftentimes cheap shots at the opposing school. Meanwhile, without a bowl game to look forward to this season, USF athletics has launched a full #BeatUCF campaign this week, with a full website www.beatucf.com, banners around campus, hype videos, and even the unveiling of special uniforms for Friday’s showdown. After years of downplaying and outright avoiding this matchup, USF is finally embracing this game. Coach Willie Taggart and company should be loose and ready to pull out all of the stops against yet another talented Knights team.
It has certainly been a “golden” few years for Coach George O’Leary and his UCF football team. The 2013 Knights won the inaugural AAC Championship with a 12-1 regular season record and became the final team to crash the BCS, upsetting Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl, all led by eventual 3rd overall pick in the NFL Draft, Blake Bortles. While the 2014 Knights have taken a step back without the tandem of Bortles and running back Storm Johnson, they still sit in a three way tie for first in the American as the season draws to a close. Offensively, the Knights sport an array of weapons, including running backs William Stanback and Dontravious Wilson, who have combined for over 1,000 yards rushing and 11 TDs this season. Playmaking JJ Worton always poses a threat to secondary’s everywhere, while Breshad Perriman leads the receiving unit with 712 yards and 7 TDs. Perriman was the one who caught the go ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the Corridor Clash last year, a play that still haunts the minds of Bulls fans to this day.
Defensively, UCF has been stout, only allowing 18.5 points per contest. The Knights rank first in the entire FBS in pass efficiency, while eighth in total interceptions with 16. Redshirt Sophomore Jacoby Glenn has 6 INTs and 9 break-ups this season alone. Moving the ball against this secondary will be a daunting task for Mike White (who was named the starter this week), East-West Shrine Game invitee Andre Davis, and the rest of the USF offense. Expect the Bulls to once again rely on the two headed monster of Marlon Mack and D’Ernest Johnson, while utilizing TE’s Mike McFarland and Sean Price more in the passing game. Injured OL Thor Jozwiak practiced this week and should be able to make the start after missing the previous game against Memphis.
In a twist of fate, UCF players including Senior LB Terrance Plummer have downplayed the game for the entire week, not even viewing USF as a rival of note, but as just another conference game. The fortunes for both of these programs have certainly shifted over the past few seasons and without a postseason game to fight for, the Bulls are playing to re-establish respect for the green and gold, something Todd Chandler also emphasized. "It's funny the lack of respect USF gets. I talk to guys like Kawika Mitchell all the time about getting it back to where opponents feared us when stepping on the field. It's definitely something all of our guys have been working to get back." The Corridor clash will be broadcasted at 12:00 PM ET Friday on ESPN2.